Over at his excellent Spirit of Vatican II blog, Joseph O’Leary examines various “signs” that have emerged over the past year which indicate the “decline of neocathism.”
In a 2005 commentary, O’Leary introduced the terms “neocath” and “neocathism” to refer to a younger generation of Catholics whose members are “becoming more and more traditional and conservative in their thought patterns.”
In his latest piece on this phenomenon, O’Leary observes that the neocaths “did not greet [the new pope’s] encyclical with any real enthusiasm and they have been complaining that he is not ‘nasty’ enough (Michael Liccione), that his pontificate is shaping up as just a lull before the next storm, that he is not following through on the needed abolition of the ‘Novus Ordo’ – the current liturgy of the Church, which many neocaths tend to see as heresy-ridden.”
Furthermore, says O’Leary, “Benedict XVI’s “gentle diplomacy in Spain, where he did not once attack gay marriage or criticize the government, was the kind of let-down his fans are now used to. The rather cranky cardinal of the early 1990s seems to have disappeared into a blander, kinder figure.”
Benedict XVI has, however, fulfilled the neocath dream in one respect, says O’Leary: “It now looks as if the entire Curia has devoted itself to the ‘inquisitorial’ task of ensuring orthodoxy. The Pope and his Secretary of State are the former Prefect and Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The CDF continues, under Cardinal Levada, to investigate and threaten theologians (Diarmuid O’Murchu is a current case), but the Pontifical Council for the Family and the Congregation for Catholic Education are involved in the same activities. They have even produced doctrinal utterances – an incredibly inept document on gay seminarians from Cardinal Grocholewski (Catholic Education) and a much-touted fifty-five page document from Cardinal Trujillo, which was made available only in the form of an Italian pamphlet that virtually no one has seen.”
“This massive investment in orthodoxy,” say O’Leary, “has had no effect whatever . . . The pastoral inefficacy of the Vatican is only highlighted by these bureaucratic distractions.”
The full text of O’Leary’s insightful commentary on the decline of the neocaths can be viewed here.